Unchanged

Title: Unchanged
Time Period: December, 128 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Luna Owens' first client at the Dovetail does not treat her how she expects to be treated, and in the aftermath she receives some desperately needed affirmation.

The embers in the fire died at approximately the same time as the sobs under the covers turned to hiccups and sniffles. On the floor, only a few shreds of a once expensive dress lay scattered across the bare planks. The rug has been taken away, likely to be cleaned, burned if the girl in the bed has a say. Which she doesn't. Not really.

There's nothing much left in it, save the bed and the end table. It's new, or at least new to the room. The unfinished wood is in dire need of oil or wax finishing and a cleaning, to remove the webs around the legs which still carry the mummified remains of gnats and flies. The linens are new, brand new, and clean. It's the very least Edme could do for Luna. After all, the young woman has already screamed a few threats of revenge for the wrongs done to her.

The ragged sound of the girl's laboured breathing covers footsteps on hardwood and groaning hinges. Luna won't know that she isn't alone in the room anymore until her visitor turns up the kerosene lamp on the bedside table to its full brightness and sits down on the edge of the mattress, causing the springs to creak. A hand reaches out to touch her shoulder, and there's a moment where she might think that Edme has returned to console her, but the woman who brushes Luna's hair away from her eyes and cradles her cheek in her palm doesn't smell like the brothel's madame.

She smells like damp horse hair and hay.

Luna flinches away from the touch, the shriek that sounds throughout the house isn't the first one heard that night. "GET OUT!!"

When it began, the girls were terrified that a banshee had come to haunt and give warning but now they're only trying to sleep. The house has been empty of clients for a while, some of them even on the hunt for the cause.

The face that greets Aislinn is deep purple and green in places, along her upper cheek and around her right eye. A cut in the middle of it stopped bleeding a long time ago, when a fat scab formed across the top. When Luna realizes it's not Edme, she recoils under the blanket, trying to cover her face. "Just go… Go… Get out… You don't belong here!!"

"I will," promises Aislinn, "just as soon as I've had a look at you." A basin of warm water and a wet cloth spun from soft fibers sits on the bedside table beside the lamp. She must have brought in with her and set it down before sinking into the blankets next Luna on the bed.

When her patient abruptly draws away, she does not pursue her. If space is what she wants, then space is what Aislinn will give her. "How unkind some men can be," she says, folding her hands in her lap.

One eyebrow draws down at the same time as the young woman's lips curve into something of a scowl. It's only half that due to a slight swelling in Luna's lip, not from a slap of a hand but chewing, which she does again as soon as she's quieted. Edme's sheets are soiled from blood and from the many soft wipes to a tender nose. It's something proper young ladies don't do but ones seeking alternate forms justice don't seem to hesitate.

"I bit him," she answers to the comment about men. "Quite hard. He'll not forget Luna Owens, not as long as he still wears his own skin. I'll guarantee that." Her chin is lifted defiantly though she still angles her head to hide most of the damage done to her face. It is a matter of pride and vanity, even though she's reputed to have too much of both, it's damaged more than her face or body.

Luna's face is not the only part of her anatomy that has Aislinn concerned for her health and well-being. "I've found that there are very few guarantees in life," she says, this time reaching for the covers so she can peel them back and examine the girl's body for further bruising, "but your conviction makes me want to believe you very much."

She does not touch her again. Not without her permission. "You'll want to wash. There's warm water and soap on the nightstand when you're ready, or I can do it for you. Sometimes they're too rough with us and we bleed. Is it all right if I see how you are between your legs?"

"I don't want you to."

There's a slight tremble in Luna's conviction, breath, and voice. Looking away from Aislinn, she reaches for the cloth. The sopping cloth is brought from the bowl, trailing a long line of water when she doesn't bother to wring it out. She dabs delicately at her cheek, her touch too slight to do much more than wash away the faintest of dirt and blood. A slight hiss through her teeth signals the soap's effectiveness in at least aggravating the young blonde.

"I didn't want him to either… not at first," she explains a little further. "But then it felt right until he called me by a different name. How hard is Luna to remember? So I told him I didn't want him any more, that I couldn't feel anything."

Aislinn turns down the heavier blankets and opens the bedside table's solitary drawer, which is large enough to store the sort of handheld mirror Edme's girls use to apply their make-up when they don't have full vanities available to them. This is exactly what she finds there, and she's careful that Luna doesn't catch a sliver of her reflection in it when she takes it out — that's not what the mirror is for.

If she doesn't want her to look, then she'll have to look herself. The mirror will allow her to check places that she wouldn't otherwise be able to, and Aislinn leaves it on the pillow for when Luna is ready, the reflective side facing down. "Was this your first time?"

If a whore could be offended at any question, it's a simple guess for Luna that this might be the one. Her nose wrinkles in disdain and she shakes her head, denying the allegation. "No, of course not," she lies convincingly enough, aside from the way she looks off to the side as she speaks. "I've been here near two weeks, I'm Luna Owens, who wouldn't pick me over the rest of them here?"

Her claims are loud enough that anyone at the door would be able to hear but lowering her head, she leans in a little closer and nods once. "I don't want to be turned out. If I can't be one of them what good am I?" Picking up the mirror, Luna glances at her reflection, turning her head to look at her cheek. A tear breaks from the confines of her lashes and spills down her cheek. "You don't think I'm ruined for good, do you?" The sheet is carefully peeled to the side for Aislinn to make her own examinations, though the young prostitute stares toward the window the entire time.

Aislinn interprets the gesture as permission to make physical contact, and while Luna is focused on the window she takes the girl's hands in hers, starting with her fingers and her nails. She checks the inside of her arms, then her neck, breasts and stomach. Edme must have brought her in from the fields; her skin is cold to the touch and her blonde hair wispy and loose where the wind outside has tugged strands from long braid hanging down her back. The wool coat she wears over her dress, thoroughly saturated with rainwater, accounts for the smell.

When it comes to easing Luna's thighs apart and assessing the damage to her genitals, she makes an extra effort to be gentle, but also quick. What she sees there confirms her suspicions, but she does not confront her about the lie. "I remember you dancing at my wedding," she says instead, "and thinking how beautiful you were. He's changed nothing."

Rough handprints are visible in a number of places but none of them are nearly as spectacular as the young woman's right eye and cheek. Even that isn't as terrible as it first looked, at least after the initial wash. In some places the prostitute flinches from the doctor's touch, mostly due to the cold on her warm skin.

"My great gran was a selkie," the boasting is only an effective cover of shame until her voice cracks on the last syllable. It's a claim she hasn't made in a long time, especially since it's her mother's pride and joy to tell. Everyone already knows, so the news isn't as good for Luna. "S'what my ma' says anyway…" Her voice drifts off and she's silent for a little while, a few minutes after Aislinn's finished and the sheet is pulled back up. "Do you think— Do you really think I'm pretty? Do you think they'll still pay for me?"

Aislinn rises from the bed. "You look like you hail from the sea," she agrees. "You have eyes that hold whole oceans and are going to send many poor sailors into debt." None of the cuts she was able to see or feel are serious enough to require stitches, and if Luna had any loose teeth she imagines that she would have brought it up. Her work here is done, but she slips a hand into the silk-lined interior of her coat and opens a hidden pocket by unfastening a button with the tips of her fingers.

"I'll ask the madame to bring you up a cup of hot water," she says, pulling out a package made of white paper that fits in her palm. The lamp's glow bleeds through it when she places it on the bedside table, and Luna can briefly see the shape of its contents as a grainy shadow. It makes a sound like loose tea leaves. "Drink it with this. It should bring down the swelling and help you get through the night. If it starts to burn when you use the toilet, have one of the other girls send for me. I have medicine for that, too."

Luna's swollen eye remains the same but her other widens as an expression of pure horror forms across her features. The sheet is tucked tightly around her legs and the young prostitute cringes and cuddles around her knees. "Burns? Is that where it begins then? There's really a hell? I thought it all a fable, something wrote in an old book that had no magic to it except for a few tricks like turnin' water to wine. A fairy's tale, only not real." Because one time Luna did see a fae, or a faery fly… it could have been either.

Taking the packet and examining its contents for a second or two, Luna places it carefully on the side table before turning her attention to Aislinn again. "It'll work better than smokin' herbs? I have a few of them and a bottle of the green fairy… You think they'd be better together?"

"I think that would be the death of you." Aislinn buttons up the front of her coat, though her eyes remain on Luna as she speaks. "Drink nothing except water until tomorrow morning, and try to eat something even if your stomach decides that it's going to be stubborn about it. If you must smoke, be sure that it's only tobacco. What I've given you is strong enough to make you feel like you'll want to sleep for a century, I promise."

The envelope is picked up again and eyed with much more interest this time. "Really.." Luna muses as she shakes a few of the leaves out into her palm. She's careful enough not to spill them onto the sheets as she passes a dubious glance between Aislinn and the medication. "It grows local? I mean… I only ask because I might need to get some more… to sleep." Or to put someone else to sleep, it could come in handy.

A fine white powder sifts out onto Luna's hand with the leaves, which appear to be a mixture of several different plants instead of just one. Aislinn's initial response is silence. Then, "You're always welcome at the apothecary, Miss Owens."

The response is guarded, but it isn't unkind. If she has any suspicions about what else Luna might do with the medication, she does not wear them on her face. "I don't close my door on anyone."

"Thank you," it's a little more genuine than Luna is regularly and it's accompanied by a close lipped smile, or the start of one. The blend is shaken back into the envelope and the powdery remains carefully scraped along the edge of the paper lip to avoid waste. "I'll be by if I need more, maybe in a day or two?"

Oddly enough, the packet is placed into the drawer and locked away, rather than lain to the side in wait for water. The healer is granted a bit larger of a grin, though it's still close lipped. "I do now… close my door that is."